Cognitive Level of Analysis: Cognitive Processes


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These are my notes for the 3.1 section of my IB HL Psychology textbook. It focuses on the Cognitive Level of Analysis and cognitive processes, particularly memory. Beware: it's quite long, but I doubt I'll post any presentations longer than this one in the future.

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Cognitive Level of Analysis: Cognitive Processes

  1. 1. Cognitive Level of Analysis Cognitive Processes
  2. 2. Principles of the CLA • Cognitive psychology: concerning the structure and functions of the mind • Find out how the human mind comes to know things about the world and how this knowledge is used • Cognitive neuroscience: Combines knowledge about the brain with knowledge about cognitive processes
  3. 3. The Mind • The mind = set of mental processes that are carried out by the brain • Cognitive processes: – Perception – Problem solving – Thinking – Memory – Language – Attention • These processes = cognition
  4. 4. Cognition • Cognition is based on one’s mental representations of the world – i.e. images, words, concepts • People have different experiences which culminate in different mental representations
  5. 5. 1st Principle • Humans are information processors and mental processes guide behavior • CLA wants to discover possible principles underlying cognitive processes • The mind is like a complex machine – Information is inputted (bottom-up processing) – Information is processed (top-down processing) – Behavior is outputted
  6. 6. Memories • Memory is not infallible because of its reconstructive nature • Experiences are stored as outlines not exact copies • False memories occur because one cannot distinguish between the actual event and what they’ve heard after – The mind can fabricate illusions that are so realistic we think they are true
  7. 7. Perception • Perception: Cognitive process that interprets/organizes information from the senses to produce some meaningful experience of the world • Context, frequency, and recency influence how one percieves a situation
  8. 8. 2nd Principle • The mind can be studied scientifically – By developing theories – Using a number of scientific research methods • Experimental method is the most “scientific”, but sometimes they are not accurate to daily life • Now psychologists use both lab studies and real-life studies
  9. 9. 3rd Principle • Cognitive processes are influenced by social and cultural factors – Frederic Bartlett pretty much came up with this idea • Schema: mental representation of knowledge • Schemas can influence the mind – i.e. how cultural schemas influence remembering
  10. 10. Frederic Bartlett • How cultural schemas influence remembering: – People had trouble remembering a story from another culture – Reconstructed the story to fit the norms of their own cultural schema • Memory is not a tape recorder – People remember it in ways that make sense to them and their pre-existing schemas • Memory is subject to distortions
  11. 11. Studying the Mind • Used to always use controlled experiments – Pro: All variables can be controlled – Con: Artificial • Now they use other methods such as case studies • Nuero-imaging technology (i.e. fMRI, CAT) – Allows researchers to see which brain areas are active during certain activities – See how brain damage affects cognitive processes
  12. 12. Cognitive Processes • Mental representations: – How you view yourself (self-representation) – How you view others – Objects, ideas, people • Used when we plan, imagine, daydream… • Manipulations of these mental representations allow us to think about situations and imagine possible outcomes – Mental representations are categorized – Lots of mental representations stored in memory
  13. 13. Cognitive Schemas • Cognitive schemas: Pre-stored mental representations – Lead to expectations • Mental representations are how we store images and ideas in our memories – What we already know affects they way we interpret events and store knowledge in our memories
  14. 14. Schema Theory • Schema Theory: cognitive theory about information processing • Cognitive schema: Networks of knowledge, beliefs, and expectations about particular aspects of the world • Schemas can describe how specific knowledge is organized and stored in memory so that it can be accessed and used when it is needed
  15. 15. Schema Theory • Schema theory suggests that what we already know will influence the outcome of information processing • Based on the assumption that humans are active processors of information • People don’t respond passively to information – They interpret and integrate it to make sense of their experiences – (both consciously and unconsciously) • Brain fills in blanks when info is missing with info from schemas – Can cause mistakes (distortions)
  16. 16. Stages of Memory Processes • Encoding: Transforming sensory information into a meaningful memory • Storage: Creating a biological trace of the encoded information in memory, which is either consolidated or lost • Retrieval: Using the stored information Encoding: Put into memory Storage: Maintain in memory Retrieval: Recover from memory
  17. 17. Anderson and Pichert (1978) • Aim: See if schema processing influences encoding and retrieval • Results: Schema processing must have some effect at retrieval as well as at encoding because the new schema could only have influenced recall at the retrieval stage – People encode information even when it is irrelevant to previous schemas • Pros: Variable control to establish cause-and- effect • Cons: Conducted in a lab (Low ecological validity)
  18. 18. Evolution of Schema Theory • Theory is useful for understanding how people categorize information, interpret stories, make predictions, etc. • Helps us understand memory distortions and social cognition
  19. 19. Limitations of Schema Theory • Cohen (1993) says the concept of schemas is too vague to be useful • Not entirely clear how schemas are acquired • Not clear how schemas influence cognitive processes
  20. 20. Multi-Store Memory Model • Atkinson and Shiffrin (1968) • Model is based on two assumptions: – Memory consists of a number of separate stores – Memory processes are sequential • The memory stores operate in conjunction with the permanent memory store
  21. 21. Memory Stores • Need attention, coding, and rehearsal for memory • Attention because you need to pay attention to remember (obviously) • Coding to give the information a memorable form • Rehearsal to keep the information active in memory until it can be stored
  22. 22. Memory Stores • Sensory memory store is modality specific – Hearing info has its own location, visual info has its own location, etc… • Info stays in these stores for a few seconds • Only a small portion continue into short-term memory store (STM)
  23. 23. Short-Term Memory • Capacity is limited to approx 7 items • Lasts about 6-12 seconds • Material is quickly lost if not given attention • Rehearsal plays a key role in determining what is stored in long- term memory store
  24. 24. Long-Term Memory • Vast storehouse of information • Indefinite duration, potentially unlimited capacity • Memories are not perfect; stored in outlines which can lead to errors – We fill in the gaps of these outlines
  25. 25. Multi-Store Model • This is an outdated model • Very simplistic • Shows the amount of knowledge available in the 1960s
  26. 26. Working Memory Model • This is a newer, more complex model for memory • Baddeley and Hitch (1974) based it on the multi-store model • Challenged the view that Short-Term Memory is one single storage unit – This model includes many components for STM
  27. 27. The Central Executive • Controlling system that monitors/coordinates the other components – These other components are called slave systems (cute, huh?) • Central executive has limited capacity and can process info from any of the senses
  28. 28. Attentional Control • Most important job of Central Executive • Two ways for attentional control: – Automatic level: based on habit and is more or less controlled by the environment • i.e. routine procedures like riding your bike to school – Supervisory attentional level: Creates new strategies when the old ones are insufficient • i.e. while you’re riding your bike to school, a car suddenly comes at you • People rely on automatic processing in daily lives a lot!
  29. 29. The Episodic Buffer • How information appears when we consciously try to recall the details of a landscape or the sound of a song • The buffer acts as a temporary and passive display store until the info is needed – Like a television screen
  30. 30. The Phonological Loop • Two components: – Articulatory control system • AKA the inner voice • Holds information in verbal form • Holds words ready as you prepare to speak – Phonological store • AKA the inner ear • Holds speech-based material in a phonological form • Receives information from: – Aensory memory in the form of auditory material – LTM in the form of verbal information – Articulatory control system
  31. 31. The visuospatial sketchpad • The Inner Eye • Deals with visual and spatial information • Receives information from: – Sensory memory – LTM
  32. 32. Evidence of Working Memory Model • Dual-task techniques (AKA interference tasks) • i.e. telling a story while learning a list of numbers • Participant carries out a cognitive task that uses most of the capacity of working memory • At the same time performs a second cognitive task • If the two tasks interfere and impair one another, then both tasks are from the same component in STM
  33. 33. Baddeley and Hitch (1974) • Asked participants to read prose and understand it while also remembering sequences of numbers • Took more time to reason • There was impairment, but it was not catastrophic • Concluded that STM has more than one unitary store • Needs more stress than that to break down the STM!
  34. 34. Evaluation of the Model • It includes active storage and processing – Makes it useful for understanding all sorts of cognitive tasks • i.e. reading comprehension and mental arithmetic • Assumes that mental processes are passive • Can explain why people are able to perform different cognitive tasks at the same time w/o disruption – AKA Multi-tasking!
  35. 35. Working Memory Test Battery for Children • Pickering and Gathercole (2001) • There is an improvement in performance in working memory capacity from the age of 5 years until about 15 years • Their work provides evidence that problems with working memory are associated with problems in academic performance – i.e. issues with phonological loop = issues in math and reading
  36. 36. Homes et al. (2008) • Studied association between visuospatial sketchpad capacity and children’s mathematics in relation to age • Studied age-related differences • In older children, mathematical performance could be significantly predicted by performance on the visual patterns test
  37. 37. Biology in Memory • Learning means formation of a memory (forming neural networks) • Lesioning (AKA WORST THING EVER): Cutting away brain tissue to see how much needs to be removed before an animal can no longer carry out a task it has learned • We study people with brain damage to observe the same thing
  38. 38. Long-Term Memory System Long-Term Memory Explicit/Declarative Memories Implicit/Non- declarative memories Semantic Memories Episodic Memories Procedural memories Emotional memories Explicit/Declarative Memories = Fact-based (i.e. “knowing what”) Semantic = General knowledge (i.e. “Obama is president”) Episodic = Personal experiences (i.e. “I saw Obama’s coronation on TV) Implicit/Non-declarative = Unconscious memories Procedural = Skills, habits, actions (i.e. “knowing how”) Emotional = Emotions. Duh.
  39. 39. The Hippocampus • Case studies of people with damaged hippocampus can’t form new explicit memories – Can still form new implicit memories!
  40. 40. The Amygdala • Plays a role in storage of emotional memories • Not much is known about emotional memories • Emotional memories are remembered better (especially for poor PTSD sufferers) • When part of the pre-frontal cortex is damaged: – Emotional memory is hard to eliminate – Hard to control emotional outbursts
  41. 41. Clive Wearing • Suffers from the most extensive amnesia ever seen – Both anterograde and retrograde amnesia – Damage to hippocampus and some frontal regions – Episodic memory and some semantic memory are lost – Cannot transfer new info into LTM either • Can still play piano and conduct music he knew before his illness (part of his implicit memory) – Implicit memory must be in a brain structure other than hippocampus – Emotional memory is intact (still loves his wife!)
  42. 42. Milner and Scoville (1957) • Case Study of HM • Tissue removed from temporal lobe including hippocampus to relieve epileptic siezures • HM could recall information, but could not form new memories – Could carry out a conversation – Unable to remember faces of the people he meets • Damage to hippocampus, amygadala, and other close areas
  43. 43. Cultural Factors in Cognition • Different challenges around the world = different developments of cognitive abilities needed to survive • Jerome Bruner says children of any culture learn the basics of culture from school and daily interactions (i.e. parents, friends, teachers, siblings, grandparents)
  44. 44. Cole and Scribner (1974) • Investigate memory strategies in different cultures • The non-schooled children did not improve their performance on free-recall tasks after age 10 • Recalled 10 items first time; after 15 practice trials only recalled 2 more • Illiterate children did not use chunking method (grouping bits of info in larger main group) • Presenting information in a narrative allowed children to chunk/recall info
  45. 45. Memory • Ability to remember is universal, but strategies for remembering are not! • People learn to remember in ways that are relevant for their daily lives • These methods do not always mirror the activities that cognitive psychologists use to study their intelligence and mental processes
  46. 46. Reliability of Memory • Memory isn’t super reliable because of its reconstructive nature – Brain actively processes information to make sense of it • However, we use memory like eyewitness accounts to determine people’s fate/guilt!
  47. 47. Recovered Memories • Sigmund Freud thought people forgot memories with repression • Thought that people use defense mechanisms (like repression) to save their conscious self from things they cannot cope with – Send dangerous memories to the unconscious and repress/deny them
  48. 48. Recovered Memories • Aim of therapy is to gain access to the unconscious • False Memory Sundrome Foundation supports families who’ve been shattered by accusations of childhood abuse after their children have gone through therapy • Some of these recovered memories are false! It is possible to manipulate people’s memories – False memories created by post-event information
  49. 49. Empirical testing of Reliability • Frederic Bartlett argued memory is reconstructive and schemas influence recall – Demonstrated role of culture in schema processing • Serial reproduction: One person tells a story, then another retells it, then another, etc… – Found people reconstruct the past by trying to fit it into existing schemas – More complicated the story = more likely to have distorted/forgotten elements
  50. 50. Empirical Testing of Reliability • Efforts after meaning: people try to find a familiar pattern in experiences • Memory is an imaginative reconstruction of experience
  51. 51. Reliability of Eyewitness Testimony • Loftus claims the nature of questions can influence witnesses’ memory • Suggestive questions and post-event information can cause schema processing which affects accuracy – Use of different verbs used to ask about car crash (smashed/hit/contacted) caused witnesses to change their view of the cars’ speed (40.8/34.0/31.8) • Different words = different perception of consequences as well – i.e. Was there broken glass?
  52. 52. Reliability of Eyewitness Testimony • It is possible to create a false memory using post-event information • Memory is not reliable • Issues with Loftus’s study: – Ecological validity (it was in a lab) – Closed questions (only yes or no answers) – Culturally biased (only US students) – Not everyone is good at estimating speed! Might not have to do with leading questions at all!
  53. 53. Yuille and Cutshall (1986) • Real life robbery; testing witnesses with suggestive questions like Lofte • No distortion on memory – Memory for details in this situation was amazing! – Particularly for those close to the event • Wording of questions had no effect on recall • Those who were most distressed had the most accurate memories
  54. 54. Use of Modern Technology to Investigate Cognition & Behavior • New technology allows us to understand the relationship between cognitive processes and behavior • Technology such as: – PET scan (Positron emission tomography) – MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging)
  55. 55. PET Scan • Measures important functions in the brain like glucose consumption and blood flow • Can detect Alzheimer’s disease very early on
  56. 56. MRI Scan • 3D picture of brain structures • Detect changes of oxygen in blood – When brain areas are active, they have more oxygen in the blood • Therefore, we can see what areas are active when people are reading/problem solving/etc